6 February 2017, Day 19
After a cold shower, breakfast, and checking the superbowl scores, we climb into Amos’s vehicle and depart at 7 a.m. It will be a very long travel day. We travel back to Nairobi, branching off on an alternate route over the mountain, where large trucks are forbidden.
Up to 10,000 feet we go then back down. It is very green at the high elevations, where there is more precipitation. We pass herds of cows and goats by the road. The breed of cow we see is the Zebu, which is adapted to drought conditions and resistant to local infectious diseases We also see a number of large chicken farms, all fairly new.
We head south on a bypass road, driving by the Kibera slum. Kenya has embarked on an ambitious project to replace the slums with houses with proper running water and sewers and power. It is called Vision 2030. Some apartment buildings have been built above the shabby roofs of Kibera.
We pass through several prosperous-looking towns before we come to the open land of the Maasai. We see homesteads with tin roofs, securely fenced. We pass a Maasai market, open today on Monday. We see motorcycles carrying huge bags of charcoal; charcoal is used here for cooking along with firewood. There are also many donkeys, described by Witress as the “4 x 4 x far” of the Maasai.
We stop at the Paradise Gallery, where we eat our sack lunches (big sack, too much lunch) and talk to the owner, Jane. Jane was circumcised when she as 13, along with a group of her contemporaries. The old woman who performed the circumcision used a single knife, with no sterilization. Some girls bled and died. HIV can also be transmitted by the contaminated knife.
Soon after, Jane was married off by her parents to an old man. She had not yet healed from the circumcision; sex was excruciatingly painful. So Jane determined to run away. She found help from an NGO, but was and is still totally shunned by her family and her village.
Jane received counseling to help her deal with the violation and her isolation. The NGO also sent her to school. When she finished secondary school, she decided to start a business to help save Maasai girls from circumcision, from this female genital mutilation or FGM. The practice is illegal according to Kenyan law, but is still practiced in some vaillages.
Jane has informers who let her know when a ceremony is scheduled. The ceremony starts late at night but the cutting happens very early in the morning. Jane calls the police, who raid the ceremony. Not all the girls choose to be rescued.
We continue on our way west, turning off shortly before we reach the Tanzanian border on a washboard dirt road. Crews of 2 or 3 men are replacing the wooden (eucalyptus) power poles with concrete poles. We see the occasional small village, herds of cattle and goats with their herders.
After a time, our vehicle develops a terrible rattle. Amos and Witress confer, test alternatives, and finally conclude that a bracket that holds up the forward diesel tank has broken. The tank is sagging and vibrating against the broken bracket. Amos assures us this is minor, and he will fix it at camp. In the mean time, we are noisy.
After what seems like a long drive, we reach the gates of Amboseli National Park. After formalities are complete, we proceed across a wide dry lake. Dust plumes behind us and blows at us with the occasional gust of wind. Mount Kilimanjaro is hidden behind a wall of cloud; only the lower slope is visible. Mirages beckon us with the illusion of water along the horizon.
We leave the dry lake and soon drive beside a lush, green marsh. This water seeps from the ground. The water and the vegetation make it possible for animals to survive during the dry season. Wildebeest and zebras migrate here in the dry season, and we see many, many of these animals. When the long rains come, they will return to their home grounds.
We see weaver bird nests, dust devils, warthogs, both Thompson and Grant’s gazelles, a golden jackal, Egyptian geese, ostriches both male and female, hippos in the marsh. There are also elephants belly-deep in the marsh, feeding on the grasses. Our guides point out a pair of Nubian vultures.
We come upon a spotted hyena mom and baby. Their bellies are so full that they are reluctant to move. The zebras and wildebeest have been dropping their young, and predators feast on the placentas. Meanwhile the animals and their young have moved on to safer pastures.
We see a Goliath heron, a yellow baboon. This baboon is more slender and has a longer snout than the olive baboon of Lake Nakuru. Their coats are also lighter in color, hence “yellow”. We see a Maasai giraffe hiding in the trees. And as our drive concludes, we pass many wild date palms, native to the area.
Wireless is available in the bar, restaurant, and reception when the generator is on. The bandwidth is abysmal, so no posts from here.